Usually political calculation isn't this obvious.
On the one hand, you've got Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, a conservative's conservative who dared to suggest that voting on an abortion ban with a limited rape exception might look bad to women and younger voters. On the other, billionaire David Koch, a prominent conservative who supports legal abortion and gay rights. That conservative activists are screaming for the former's Congressional seat and completely ignoring the latter shows the hypocrisy of anti-abortion politics today.
Ellmers has a lifetime 100 percent voting record with National Right to Life, but now she's "Public Enemy No. 1" for conservative activists for saying the obvious: Voting on an abortion ban with a very punitive rape "exception" is bad politics. She's not against banning abortion or even this bill, mind you. She just didn't want to make a bad impression with voters. For showing political acumen, Erick Erickson of RedState called her "a sniveling liar" and "the GOP's Abortion Barbie." Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council threatened to get her a primary opponent in the next election. "That's going to happen and she deserves it," said Dannenfelser.
Criticizing Ellmers from the right became such easy sport that Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert got into the act, but not without creating his own little sideshow.
"I'm told that they're still going to bring [the bill] back, but because there was such division among our Republican females, they pulled the bill that day," Gohmert said on a conference call with conservative activists. "And that was extremely unfortunate, and it sent entirely the wrong message." Our Republican females? Who talks like that?
While Ellmers was rearranging the deck chairs on the head of a pin, pro-choice Libertarian David Koch was hosting anti-abortion politicians and White House aspirants Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker who gladly sang for their super PAC supper at the Koch's FreedomWorks confab.
Color me unsurprised that none of them skipped the conference in protest of Koch's support of marriage equality and abortion rights. Or maybe I just missed Cruz, Paul, and Scott publicly demanding that Koch renounce his support for legal abortion before they could accept his coin? Seems like Perkins and Dannenfelser don't seem to be finding the same outrage in Koch's admission that they showed for Ellmers' lesser offenses against orthodoxy. Gosh. No one even seemed to bring it up.
Of course, the Koch brothers recently laid down their marker for 2016, saying they were planning on spending $899 million in the upcoming elections. And if past is prologue, then we know that many of those millions will be going to the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life Action, two groups that have taken huge contributions from Koch-backed organizations in the past. That's a lot more than 30 pieces of silver and apparently enough to alleviate their sharp disagreements with him over abortion. If only Renee Ellmers had a few hundred million dollars to spread around she might have been off the hook!
Is it really that simple? Does money paper over their moral objections? They oppose legal abortion, but just not to the extent that they are willing to go against the biggest donor to conservative causes? The disparity of outrage between what Ellmers and Koch faced exposes a gap in their convictions with maybe a bit of sexism thrown in for fun. Apparently they will yell at women -- in Congress or at health centers -- but not so much David Koch.
I've not had much in common with groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and the Family Research Council. Breitbart never invited me to their Christmas party. From afar, it's easy to believe that folks who engage in politics as a profession don't hold deep convictions. Up close, that hasn't been my experience. Speaking as someone who works in advocacy, I don't believe in the autonomy of women because I work for Planned Parenthood. It's the other way around. I believe that women should have the ability to make their own decisions about their health and their lives, so I work for Planned Parenthood. (Hey, David Koch, want to get coffee?)
I always suspected that the same was true for the anti-abortion groups. Despite my deep moral and philosophical differences with those who wanted to criminalize abortion, they seemed to staff their barricades with a rather vicious sincerity. Now, I wonder. If the same people who are picking on Ellmers for her nuanced objections to an abortion bill are silent on Koch's support of abortion rights, then they do not have the courage I always ascribed to their convictions. What we are seeing is, in fact, political calculation and situational morality of the most expensive order.